Proliferation of the Tallest Building Syndrome: From Global to Local


  • N. Naz


Since the dawn of human history, man has been striving hard to build high in order to make his mark on the world. Towers, pyramids, obelisks, cathedral’s steeples etc. are perhaps the earliest architectural statements of the human urge to reach to the sky. From the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution brought drastic improvements in iron manufacturing and construction. William Le Baron Jenney, an American Engineer and architect, development of load-bearing steel frame, which led to the "Chicago skeleton" form of construction made possible variety of skyscrapers in the later years. His Home Insurance Company Building, in Chicago constructed in 1885 was the first one to employ the frame structure. This revolutionized urban life because in higher buildings greater number of people could have been accommodated in limited areas. Over the time, in being home to the worlds’ tallest building has become a major issue on the political agenda of many countries because of the stigma of economic prosperity and superiority attached to it. USA dominated the race for the title of the tallest building in the world during the first 90 years of 20th century. Malaysia acclaimed the title of housing the tallest building of the world in 1996 but soon after, Taiwan proclaimed the title in 2004. The futuristic contender is Dubai, UAE, where Burj Dubai is supposed to reach well over 2, 000 feet by the time it is completed in 2008. It seems that the story of the tallest buildings has no end and sky has become the limit. As it has become an icon of superiority therefore, tower blocks are soaring into South Asian countries regardless of their compatibility within the local context and Pakistan is no exception. Though, tall buildings are visually fascinating, but the horrified images of 9/11 has brought into focus scale of damage caused by such buildings during emergency. 10/8 earthquake in Pakistan brought another shock to the world and feasibility of high-rise buildings was slammed at the local level. The author’s felt obliged to unfold socio-political forces behind high-rise construction leading to skyscraper in the West. As a first step, design philosophy of masterminds, rotation of titles, and psychophysical affects on human beings would be explored rather than tall buildings as single finished objects and how the other countries along with Pakistan joined the race and adapted these factors? Documentary resources, internet search, informal discussions with local professionals and personal probing constitutes major content of the research. Based on above, a separate research with special reference to major cities of Pakistan will be carried out. The author is convinced that such analysis would be beneficial in creating awareness among local architects, planners, builders and policy makers, in determining their future direction.


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City and Regional Planning, Environmental Engineering, Architecture